Alex le Lievre has built what looks like an insane custom controller for Pro Tools LE using an iPhone. He seems to have mimicked the look and feel of Pro Tools so successfully that some called the results a fake. There’s incredibly detailed feedback on track status, including live audio signal feeds and transport controls. It even uses iPhone’s tilt mechanism.

This is interesting for two reasons: one, those lusting after iPhone and iPod Touch have another reason to drool. But secondly, Digidesign has been pretty closed about their controller mechanism. If this is real, Alex did a pretty great job of cracking into it. (I only just heard from JazzMutant, by contrast, that their Dexter won’t support Pro Tools because it’s not possible.)

ProRemote 0.0.1 on YouTube (darned nice “0.0.1” release!)

Alex’s video on his .Mac page

Thanks to Chris O’Malley for the tip.

Could Apple be working on a Control Pro? One commenter thinks so, and this patent evidence from last year at least suggests they’ve thought about it. (Keep in mind, though, sometimes experimental ideas don’t become products, and patents are hard to read.)

Updated: How Alex Did It

Alex wrote in. He’s in fact a very experienced programmer with background in Pro Tools plug-in development, software architecture, and Macromedia’s multimedia architecture (pre-Adobe), among other things, and he’s kind enough to share with us how the whole thing works.

The remote is real. I plan to sell it if Apple lets me once they certify my code- I assume that will happen after they release they native software SDK in February.

Here are some snippets of previous posts that may answer some of your questions. If not feel free to ping me anytime.

It works on the iPod touch and the iPhone (on all firmwares supposedly) and the reason “why” you would want this remote in the first place (at least for me): by the time I have gotten up and walked over to my console 10 times to adjust the levels, I no longer want to play music. This software allows me to control my rig from the drums or my guitar setup and hopefully keep the music flowing.

I have a Tranzport which is what inspired me to write this software. I can’t get far enough away with my tranzport and it doesn’t have touch sensitive faders! 🙁 Not to mention the UI on the tranzport is 2 lines and certainly not in color… I was thinking it would be cool to support their plugin architecture so that I could support the same DAWs as they do on my iPhone (they support them all it seems). I don’t think I can distribute their code but I could probably tell people where to get it! 🙂

more technical:
This software is in three pieces: the first piece is the software on the iPhone (the remote). The second is the server (the brains) and the third is the MIDI driver (to communicate with ProTools)… The midi driver and server live on the ProTools machine.

The server process uses a proprietary protocol over TCP on port 8183 and 8184. This isn’t some lame web service- it’s a high performance, low latency, full duplex server. It kicks ass and yes, it can act as an internet server if you so choose. The ideal however is to have local access to the server.

You can run the server program on any machine you like (this may change for performance reasons). In my case (and the best case) is to run the server on the same machine as ProTools is running on- This reduces any latency to the iPhone.

I’ve also tested the remote on the AT&T EDGE network which means you can control your rig from anywhere in the world that has internet or EGDE. Why you would want to do that is beyond me.

The communication between the remote and server is not standard MIDI over IP. The ProRemote protocol is optimized for Wifi-remote access versus serial access for MIDI. The server communicates with ProTools (and soon other hosts) via a MIDI driver using the Mackie HUI (MIDI) protocol.

There is a transport control in the app where you can also see the timecode. I may put the timecode somewhere else… I’m also considering adding a dedicated transport “page” with a large “footswitch” style button for punch (you could use your big toe or something to trigger the big punch button) and a finger controlled scrubber/scroller as well as the usual host of transport buttons (but larger) and buttons for track selection, in, out- loop, etc…

I was thinking it would also be cool to use the accelerometer inside the phone as a panner… (think Wii but with the iPhone as panner)- People who think you are crazy will know for certain if you start panning by making insane gestures with your iPhone.

Finally, there are other goodies planned for the remote that I can’t talk about at the moment!

Really amazing stuff, and I think says a lot about where hardware/software integration will go in the post-MIDI world — not just for the iPhone/iPod, but new generations of hardware devices. Alex has more planned, so naturally we’ll keep you posted. (Now, Alex, about an Ableton or Logic version…)